Tips & Tactics

Before You Claim Your Game …

Before You Claim Your Game …

By Matthew McDaniel

Photo: There are steps to follow before claiming downed game of any species.

A wounded whitetail is a potentially deadly animal. Here are some things we should all teach our children before they go hunting — this goes for beginner adults, too.

My father always taught me that deer's behavior is oftentimes deceptive, especially if they are injured or wounded. After all, they have instinctively played possum from time to time since they were fawns.

I'm sure you've heard stories of hunters who thought their deer was dead, only to have it jump up and run away unexpectedly. There are many instances of hunters who’ve been injured (or worse) by wild game, including white-tailed deer, when mistakenly thinking the animal was dead.

Here's what you want to do:

Before you claim your downed deer, make sure to approach slowly from its hind end, keeping a close watch on its eyes.

If the deer has not expired and is only lying still, it could kick, flail or get up and run away. You do not want to be in its path — especially if it has antlers!

With your gun or bow ready, take a long moment to watch its eyes to see if it blinks, even if it has its head down. Then, from behind the deer, use a long stick, arrow or gun barrel to reach out and touch the animal's eyeball. If it does not blink, it's okay to walk around to the business end. If it blinks, stand back, study the injury and determine whether or not you need to administer a follow up shot.

Opening Day to RememberThis all might seem like common knowledge among hunters, but I'm surprised how many times I see hunters on television walk right to a deer and grab its antlers without doing the eye test first.

–Editor's Note by Tim H. Martin: I'd like to add to Matthew McDaniel's tip with the story of a dangerous instance that occurred while I was on a black bear hunt in Saskatchewan.

One of the hunters in camp had shot a bear and was approaching it with a guide. The bruin’s head was down and the hunter was about to walk right up, sit down and have his photo made with it. Fortunately, the guide, who was cautiously easing forward, saw the bear blink. He immediately pulled the hunter back and shot the "dead" bear. Before expiring, it rose up in a ball of fury and attempted to turn on the hunters.

And in 2019, an Arkansas hunter mistakenly thought the deer he’d shot was dead. The buck attacked the man, who died of puncture wounds.

With the increase of feral hog numbers in deer country, be advised that a wounded hog is extremely dangerous. They often appear completely dead, but will suddenly rise up and attack an approaching hunter. Always keep your guns up when approaching wounded pigs.

So, be observant when claiming downed game, no matter the species. Approach from behind, keep your eyes on its eyes, and be prepared for a follow up shot.

Editor’s Note: If you have a unique or special tip you’d like to share with Buckmasters fans, please email it to and, if chosen, we will send you a cap signed by Jackie Bushman, along with a knife!

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Copyright 2020 by Buckmasters, Ltd.

Copyright 2020 by Buckmasters, Ltd